The effects of aging and a baby boomer generation with a propensity for an active lifestyle may be contributing to a significant increase in the number of total knee arthroplasty (TKA) procedures that are being performed in Chicago and throughout the entire U.S.
But some patient safety groups are wondering whether these procedures are more harmful than helpful. Factors such as surgical errors and unnecessary procedures are showing dangerous outcomes, including wound infection, hemorrhage, sepsis and heart attack. Sometimes these errors can cause patients to suffer fatal injuries.
According to an analysis of Medicare patient records, the number of TKA procedures increased by 162 percent from 1991 to 2010. The length of hospital stays for a primary knee replacement decreased from an average of eight days during the years of 1991 through 1994 to four days between 2007 and 2010.
This decrease is likely due to changes in the payment system incentivizing hospitals to discharge patients more quickly. However, the rate of readmission for revision procedures has increased. Thirty-day readmission rates jumped to 5 percent for primary procedures and 9 percent for revision procedures. Over the last few years, revision procedures have been connected with an increased readmission rate for wound infections, hemorrhage, sepsis and heart attack.
Researchers point out that a great number of TKAs are done by surgeons who perform fewer than 12 TKA operations per year. Perhaps patients should consider having their procedures done in medical centers that perform these types of surgeries on a regular basis and by surgeons who perform these operations more frequently. To reduce the risk of surgical errors, seniors might also want to get a second opinion from another medical professional in order to determine whether a TKA operation is necessary.
Source: ABC News, “Knee Surgeries Surge in Seniors; So Do Problems,” Sept. 26, 2012
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